We're Working & We're Riding

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Editorial by Walt Blackburn,
Government Liaison Officer,<br />Thunder Mountain Wheelers ATV Club
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Reflections on the GMUG Travel Plan

Thunder Mountain Wheelers (TMW) ATV club of Delta--along with the Western Slope ATV Association (WSATV) of Grand Junction and other organized OHV clubs on the Western Slope of Colorado--have been actively involved in the Forest Service and now the BLM travel management plans for years. The Grand Mesa, Uncompaghre & Gunnison (GMUG) National Forest was the pioneer for travel management and was the first forests to have a successful travel plan. Therefore TMW was also in the first wave of participantants to experience this new term"Travel Plan." This new process didn't just happen!

It took literally thousands of hours of public and private meetings from the various user groups to have the travel plans come together. I can assure you, in the beginning, many of the public and private meetings were "tense" to say the least. Every user group attending was only interested in their own agenda and couldn't really care less about the other participants. During these formative days, the Forest Service was also going through a learning curve as far as operating as a collaborative partner and interacting with all the various user groups trying to reach a common goal. The first travel plans did not come off without a hitch. The plans were appealed and then re-introduced into the system. Ultimately, after more meetings and continued work on everyone's part, several of the different forest travel plans finally came to fruition. As many are aware some are still in process and the Western Slope OHV community continues to stay engaged with input and participation.

After reflecting on the rough beginning, one of the lessons learned by all user groups as well as the agencys was that many of us had the same or similar concerns for the Forest and BLM lands. It has been a struggle for the Agency's and the various user groups to reach common ground when the requirements are substantially different yet similar for each group. We're all learning from our past experiences. The process in today's Travel Management arena is more refined and the input and collaboration between groups has become more professional and cooperative.

In the beginning we all heard how the OHV community was a bunch of beer drinking, foul-mouthed, knuckle draggers that had no respect or consideration for any of the natural resources or respect for fellow user groups. (Could they have been talking about me?)

Well, welllet's fast forward to the year 2009. "Using, Not Abusing, Our Public Lands" puts new meaning into the slogan of the Thunder Mountain Wheelers ATV Club. Who at the travel management table brings the agencies more help and resources than the OHV community? Through the Colorado State Parks OHV grant program, along with funds and thousands of volunteer work hours from the various OHV organized clubs, we have literally contributed millions of dollars towards the betterment and protection of the resources so we can continue to use, but not abuse, our public lands. Hence"We're Working & We're Riding."

Having been a participant in Travel Management process with the Forest Service from the beginning, let me make the following observation. We have worked with, tried to work with, attempted to work with and didn't work with several Forest Supervisors on the GMUG. Fortunately, at the present time the GMUG Forest has Charlie Richmond as Forest Supervisor. Has everything on the GMUG gone absolutely smoothly? No. Does the OHV community get everything it wants? Are you kidding me? Could the OHV community have fared worse? Absolutely. Much worse.

Reflecting back on history I think the TMW ATV Club can support the old government sayingMr. Richmond "run's a good shop." We look forward to continuing our collaborative efforts with the GMUG Forest in support of OHV recreation.

Even though everything on the GMUG is not perfect, many good things have happened and are happening for OHV recreation. With the cooperation and involvement of the Ouray District Ranger, the TMW club was successful this past summer in completing a three year project in the Criswell Creek Basin connecting two separate trails that enhanced a loop route from 22 miles to 54 miles. Last fall the Ouray District Ranger initiated a quarterly OHV meeting to address OHV issues. These meetings have been very successful in providing us with the opportunity to relate one on one with the district rangers. These quarterly meetings have also afforded us a workshop opportunity to look forward to future projects. Presently, we are prioritizing trail work, construction, re-construction and new construction of trails on the Uncompaghre Plateau for this next summer. Our top priority is the construction of approximately 25 new miles of a trail called the Parallel Trail. This trail was addressed in the 2002 Record of Decision but never built. This will substantially enhance OHV recreation by safely keeping the OHV community off the fast-traveled Divide road. The new trail will also provide connections to four loop routes, via an OHV trail instead of a dangerous full size vehicle roadway. In February, TMW met with all five of the GMUG Ranger District's trails people to map out and strategize the upcoming summer projects for our S.W.E.C.O./Sutter trail dozer. Presently TMW is working with the trails person from the Ouray District and the GIS people from the Forest Supervisor's office putting together the south end of the Plateau Travel Map. This map will be combined with the north end of the Plateau Map that was previously done by the WSATV organization. These are all paid for by the Colorado State Parks grant funds.

Please let me share my frustration with the readers of this article in the OHV community. I have only briefly touched on the excellent vehicle we have available to us through the Colorado State Parks Grant Program to be an even bigger player and more visible and influential in our efforts to support OHV recreation. I want to encourage OHV clubs to get off your laurels, get cracking and apply for some grants. Generally the money spent on any project from an OHV club itself has more chance of the funds actually making it "on the ground." It really is not that difficult. It takes a little time in preparation of the paperwork for submission and a little preparation time for your oral presentation. These grants help fund our projects and in doing so help to protect our valued resources, the OHV trails.

You don't want to load up your family or friends and your trusty old favorite OHV machine some weekend and head for your favorite trail head and find that it is "closed." What I'm saying is, "you have to actively participate, if you want to continue to play."

--Questions or comments regarding this article should be directed to the BlueRibbon Coalition: Phone: 208-237-1008, Fax: 208-237-9424. Email: .

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